Not being one given to exaggeration, I can say in all honesty that Earl Turner is the best solo performer in Las Vegas. Well, sort of.
Earl is certainly the best, one of the people who earned Las Vegas the name "The City of Entertainment." But, sadly, he's not here often enough these days. Like so many other talented people, the economy has sent him packing, to other cities, on cruises - and Las Vegas-based entertainers are a staple of cruises these days - to anyplace there is work. In his case, that is a pity.
Earl Turner is his generation's Sammy Davis, Jr. (Remember, no exaggeration!) He can sing, he dances and is a fine actor, too. While his show doesn't feature the latter, it certainly showcases his singing and dancing. He is also the only man I've ever seen perform And I'm Telling You (from Dreamgirls) and do it as well as Jennifer Holliday did.
Turner began here in the lounges, had his own showroom at the Rio and, then, Rio owners Harrah's moved him to his own Earl Turner Theater in New Orleans. That run ended with Hurricane Katrina. He came back to Las Vegas with a regular show at Palace Station. And, since the economic downturn, has been here occasionally but has mostly been doing cruises.
Along the way, Turner has won devoted new fans. Take, for example, the couple I heard about from my sister. She called me one Friday night when she was having dinner with them. Knowing she visits Las Vegas at least once each year, they told her they'd seen the "greatest entertainer" they'd ever seen on their just-ended cruise and asked if she'd ever "heard of Earl Turner" and told her they said they might just plan their next cruise to see him. And that is not a foolish plan - great destinations and great entertainment as you get there. It is a smart plan.
But, travel the world or the seas, Turner began his show at the Suncoast Hotel and Casino singing It's A New Day and noting, "We are at home here [in Las Vegas]. I watched my kids and your kids grow up here," and then launched into a very sincere rendition of I Really Love You, clearly intended to express his feelings about the city.
Working with seven musicians and three backup singers, Turner's show never slows. In this mecca of first-rate show musicians, his set the bar. Keyboard player/music director Tex Richardson sets the tone for all the other very fine players. It's clear everyone on stage enjoys what he or she is doing.
Turner showcases his dancing from the git-go with Get Your Boogie Down. His dance moves are as skilled as Davis', but the choreography is more in the nature of vintage Tom Jones. Only, Turner's dancing puts Jones at his best to shame. He's dynamite.
Also an explosive dancer is Earl's son Aaron Turner ("AT"), a newly minted college graduate who has been onstage with his father for several years. He serves as one of the back-up singers but it is his dance that shines. The kid has chops and can go far.
In the show are tributes to Davis, Lou Rawls, JAmes Brown, those old 45 records (The Platters, Al Hibbler) and a power ballad by Las Vegas songwriter Larry Hart called Till The Right One Comes Along. There's also, with Aaron, some rap, and with father on guitar and son dancing, a lovely verson of Jason Mraz' You And I Both.
Turner had the audience on its feet for standing O's several times. And this audience, it's important to note, is multi-generational. They all seem to love him.
And, you will, too. His show schedule (at the moment mostly on cruise ships) can be found at http://earlturner.com/.
Of course, it might be difficult to manage a cruise but bear in mind that Earl Turner is one entertainer who it is well worth traveling to see. For tickets, visit http://www.suncoastcasino.com/whats-new/events/earl-turner-may20-22.